ANAHEIM -- Thirty miles separate the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings, which would alleviate any travel issues for the unprecedented Southern California matchup, right?
Not quite. Factor in altered practice routines, traffic and venue availability, and it becomes complicated enough that traveling secretaries get involved for teams that won't have to get on a plane for the Western Conference Second Round series, which begins Saturday at Honda Center in Anaheim (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
The Ducks and Kings played each other five times in the regular season, but this is different on multiple fronts. The Kings change their routine for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Instead of having their morning skate at their practice rink in El Segundo, 20 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, they will bus to Anaheim on Friday night, stay at a hotel, then conduct their skate at Honda Center for Game 1, Kings spokesman Michael Altieri said.
They would then drive home to the South Bay, where most Kings players live, and repeat the process for Game 2 at Honda Center on Monday.
Conversely, for Games 3-4, the Ducks will stay at a downtown Los Angeles hotel the night before and conduct their morning skate at Staples Center. That plan had to account for the Los Angeles Clippers, who use Staples Center and will be alive in the NBA playoffs if they win Game 7 on Saturday night.
It's new logistics for all involved, and players on each side welcome this twist opposed to playing in different time zones.
"It almost feels like the Eastern Conference because we can bus to the games," Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller said. "It's nice, especially compared to last year with playing [the Detroit Red Wings] and the time change and all the flying. That should definitely help, but both teams will have that advantage. It will be nice to not spend all that time stuck on planes."
Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau spent years in the Eastern Conference, where there are not many long flights. When he arrived in Anaheim, the increased travel time took him aback.
"When I first got here, or after the first year, I said the West should start with 10 points, because their travel is so much more than the East," Boudreau said. "But, I think, for the wear and tear on the bodies, it's really cool that we're 45 minutes apart, and it should benefit both teams."
Kings coach Darryl Sutter, a farmer in his off time, is obsessed with his team's itinerary and its practice routine around games. Upon his arrival in Los Angeles in 2011, Sutter did not like having practice away from the home arena, and during that 2012 Stanley Cup run he had the Kings do their morning skates at Staples Center.
Sutter said he didn't think this is much of an adjustment.
"To be quite honest, what's the difference between driving to Staples Center and driving to Honda Center from where we all live?" Sutter said. "No difference."
Driving from one venue to the other actually isn't as easy as it sounds because of the area's world-class traffic, especially at peak hours. It can take from 40 minutes to well more than an hour, depending on the route and freeway flow. Fans for Games 1-2 will have to account for extra traffic near Honda Center because the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are playing simultaneously a few blocks down Katella Avenue.
The players won't get to sleep in their own beds every night, but they won't fight jet lag either.
"We're still going to downtown and staying in a hotel, but we don't have to leave early in the morning like you would if we were going to play [the St. Louis Blues] like we did last year, for example," Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr said. "That would take almost the whole day up with travel. This is going to be nice."
Anaheim right wing Corey Perry said, "That's kind of the nice part. You're not on a plane every night and trying to get around the country. We're excited to play L.A … it's never happened in history between the two teams. The crowd's going to be into it, the players are excited, and I think California is excited."